Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Three Paradoxes

Okay, so some of you might have noticed by now that I am into comics, and am going to freely inform you about math-and-logic related comics that I run across (both the good - see Peanuts below - and the bad - see Superman below). Hell, I think I am the only person in the world publishing on both logic and on the aesthetics of comics. Give me a break ;)

Anyway, most of you probably are already aware of A. Doxiadis et alia's Logicomix - the story of Russell's logic in comic book form (I reviewed it for History and Philosophy of Logic, for anyone interested in that sort of thing!)

Recently another comic involving the history of logic has appeared: Paul Hornschemeier's The Three Paradoxes. The comic tells five distinct, but interconnected stories. The title derives from one of these stories: Hornschemeier's brilliant seven-page depiction of Zeno of Elea presenting his three paradoxes of motion to the Athenian philosophers (he leaves out the Stadium on Parmenides' advice!)

The Zeno material in the comic is connected to a passage where Hornschemeier sees a scarred childhood acquaintance for the first time in years and finds himself tongue-tied. Afterwards he and his father compare this 'frozen' feeling - this inability to speak or move appropriately - to Zeno's paradoxes of motion.

There are a couple notable things about the portion of the comic that depicts Zeno explaining his puzzles to the Athenians. First off is the fact that Hornschemeier gets the paradoxes right (something Doxiadis couldn't be bothered to do in Logicomix even though his co-author is a professional computer scientist - see the review above for details). Second, however, is his depiction of Socrates and Socrates' reaction to Zeno. After hearing about the paradox he exclaims:

"Man, no offense. But are you guys retarded?"

Then he asks what happens if Zeno is successful, and they all come to believe Zeno's views - views they didn't previously hold. He then answers his own question:

"Here is Athens we call that shit change. Change! What do they call that shit over in Elea?"

It's both hilarious and, in my opinion, completing in keeping with Socrates' character (insofar as we know what that is).

Good stuff. I recommend it.

[By the way, I have decided to let the offensive use of 'retarded' slide, since the comic is so great otherwise.]

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